The Government has just issued new advice on testing for 7 and 11 year olds which is causing serious concern amongst teachers and Headteachers.
The NUT has called the demands " unachievable" and "chaotic" and is demanding this year's SATs are withdrawn. Several education unions are meeting today to discuss a collective response.
Jennie Jones, a Year 2 teacher at a London primary school, explains why the government's plans are such a disaster for educators and children alike.
Picture the scene: I am standing in front of my class teaching them how to write a letter. They are being Jack’s mum, from Jack and the Beanstalk, and are rightly getting in the mood. Then comes the reminder; “And please remember to put a red dot in front of your statements, blue in front of your questions, green for commands and orange for exclamations. Oh, and I need to see those conjunctions…..and those expanded noun phrases with plenty of adverbials. And please try to use some of these common exception words!” I used to just say make it so interesting I fall off my chair, and the quality writing used to appear.
It is half term and I have brought all my writing books home along with my writing assessment folder. I had the joy of receiving the exemplification materials for writing a few days before half term. Now I have to reassess all of my writing samples using the interim assessment standards which we were told not to use to assess the children until the end of the year. The thing is, my data has to be submitted in June so I can’t wait until then to use these standards, especially as a child has to achieve ALL of the standards in one section and I need evidence to prove it. Best fit is out the window. We are now planning special spelling tests to get evidence for the standards on common exception words and suffixes, extra daily SPaG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) test practice, and timing our children reading to provide evidence for the 90 words per minute standard. Not a fun and exciting curriculum but we will try to make it fun if we possibly can.
No one knows what the heck we are doing. We wait for the next missive to arrive from the Department for Education and read it to see what we have to change next. My personal favourite one was the one which said even though the curriculum asks that the children in year 2 learn their 2, 5 and 10 times tables, there will be questions on the 3 times tables in the test to ensure the children are being stretched. Does this mean I need to teach the entire year 3 curriculum on top of the year 2 just to be sure?
I attended a moderation/standardisation session run by my local authority which made it clear that they don’t have much of a clue either. One told us that we should use the interim assessments at the end of the year, the other said stick them in books and highlight them as they achieve them. Everyone is confused and reacting with panic to every change.
The sad thing is I work in a great school with an incredibly supportive head teacher. He says he will support us whatever our results this year but we all know what will happen if our results plummet, which they will. I know most of my class may scrape through to the expected standards but I don’t think many will get into what is called “deepening”, which is not a true reflection of their sparky characters and intelligence. I suspect that many teachers will leave years 2 and 6 after this year. We know the interim assessments are only in place for this year but the stress levels are so high many teachers will not want to repeat this experience next year with new materials and pressures.
My class are being used as guinea pigs. As much as I want to say “stuff it lets just have fun and learn interesting things and grow as learners!”, I can’t as they need to learn enough of the curriculum to cope with the tests and survive in year 3. If we manage to get the unions to agree to a boycott when the Government does not agree to a suspension, I will be the first one to light a bonfire of all the out of date Department for Education missives, SATS papers, SPaG tests and all the rest of the assessment materials that are filling up two shelves of my cupboard. I will then spend the rest of the year having fun teaching and celebrating the achievements of my amazing class.